Race Report: Baltimore Marathon (50K++)

Note:  I wrote this post almost a month ago, but due to technical difficulties was unable to upload photos until this week….

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It’s been way too long since I last posted, but I have been busy.

Running….Running….Running….

JFK is less than a month away, and I have been hard at work.  The girls and Jimmy have most of my waking hours but  – when they leave for the morning – I put on my shoes and hit the road or trail.  I’ve had so much fun this summer and fall…from Blue Ridge swimming holes to AT adventures to countless miles all over the River City.

As the weather has cooled and the leaves changed I’ve built up my weekly mileage, logged two-a-day workouts, and cross-trained as much as my schedule allowed.

While I have a few more tough weeks ahead, last weekend I logged the last 30+ mile run before JFK.

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I signed up for the Baltimore Marathon about three weeks before the race, almost as an afterthought.  Logistically, it was simple.  I could stay with my cousin and leave the girls with my parents for the night.  Jimmy offered to ride his Mountain Bike and provide any support I might need.  While I liked the idea of running 26.2, what I really needed was a 50K.  I wanted the time on my feet.  I wanted road miles to simulate the last 35 miles of JFK.  So I did what made sense (to me)…I decided to run the 8 miles to the start of the marathon.

Well, while it was a good idea in theory, we nixed it the night before.  Too many sketchy sections to run in the dark.  No car at the finish line.  In the end, we decided to drive down early and run around the harbor before the 8AM start.  Excellent choice.  This was my daybreak:

I  logged just under 7 miles before getting to Camden Yards right as they were singing the National Anthem.  No time for a potty break, just able to shed my long sleeves, hand them to Jimmy, and we were off…

…I love Maryland, and Baltimore does a great job of showing its state pride.  From the sights and sounds of Camden Yards and Ravens Stadium, the Inner Harbor, Druid Hill Park, Fells Point, the marathon wends throughs the neighborhoods and hills of Charm City.

I felt great at the start, and despite the fact that the first five miles are uphill, I was clocking 7:30 miles.  Too fast, Annie!  By mile 8 or 9 I was settling into a funk. My worn out Saucony’s were pounding my hips and IT band.  I started feeling demoralized – bored and unmotivated.  When I saw Jimmy at Mile 10, I asked him to meet me in a few miles with my other shoes (Brooks Pure Flow).  Just before Mile 11, on an out-and-back section of the course, I passed my friend Brian.  He wasn’t that far ahead of me, but I knew he was planning on running a lot faster than I was.  It was then that I made the decision to SLOW DOWN, and I settled into an 8:15 – 8:30 pace that would carry me the rest of the way.

At mile 13, Jimmy gave me my shoes.  While it wasn’t an instant fix, within a few miles my IT band pain had eased.  I broke the remaining miles into chunks:

  • Just get to mile 16…you’ll only have 10 more to go then, and you know you can run 10.
  • Just get to mile 20…with six left you can start taking walking breaks if you need to (though fortunately I never had to).
  • Mile 22 will be huge…just 4 to run.
  • Mile 24 – anyone can run 2 miles.
  • Mile 25 – just the victory lap left.
  • Holy cow, there’s mile 26…you did it girl…sprint to the end….26.2 and a 3:36 – nice BQ to cap off the day!!

33 miles run.  A free Chic-Fil-A sandwich and cookie.  Natty Boh for the ride home.  Going into the day, my goal was a 9 min/mi pace.  I was happy to see I had the strength to run faster.  Even happier that I could run well this week.  Training continues, after all.

Lessons Learned:

  • ITS ALL MENTAL!  At no time did I feel like my body was about to give out.  I did have a solid hour, however, when I desperately wanted to quit.  I am so glad I kept going, for if I had folded I think it might have derailed my confidence for JFK.
  • BACK UP SHOES ROCK!  I was really, really lucky that a) I had packed a back up pair of shoes and b) we drove to the start.  Those Brooks saved my race, and I will always have an extra set on hand at ultra event (provided that I can get crew support to deliver them when needed!)
  • FUEL YOURSELF WELL – I ate a nice breakfast Friday, and a great pasta dinner Saturday.  A bit of muffin and three gu’s were all that was needed during the run.  I carried my hydration pack with 50 oz of Nuun, which lasted me until mile 23.

Baltimore was a hilly, but fun course.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  While I prefer the trail, of course, it was nice to get another road marathon under my belt.  I did what I set out to do, and will see if that pays off on November 17.

Race Report: Catoctin 50K

I’m not sure how I first heard about the Catoctin 50K.  It could have been in February, when I went trail-running with the Frederick Steeplechasers for the first time.  Or maybe it was during my spring recovery — I couldn’t run, so tortured myself with the internet.

It sounded intriguing.  A summer 50K would fit nicely into JFK training.  It’s held right outside of Frederick, on trails that I’ve run before.  The girls could stay with my parents, and I could have a day in the woods.

I started asking my running friends about it.  “Great race, fantastic!  Oh, except there are a lot of rocks”.  “Awesome time, really – you should do it.  Oh – but its really, really hot and humid most years”.   “So much fun – watch out for the rattlesnakes”

Of course, I signed up.

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The course is an out-and-back, starting at the Tea Room at Gambrill State Park and going to the Manor area of Cunningham Falls State Park.  It’s entirely trail – about 95% of it single track.  It’s famous for its rocks and technical elements.   People often quote that Catoctin is harder than the nearby JFK 50 miler.

By design, the event is held in the middle of the summer – so much the better to take advantage of the local heat and humidity.  It’s “only” a 50K, so there is are no frills, no whining tolerated, no sympathy, no awards.  Finishing earns a hand shake and the “Cat Card”

When I arrived at the Tea Room around 6:45, there was still plenty of parking.  I went over to the registration table and got my number.  On the way, I passed a line of T-shirts from prior years – all with witty sayings related to rocks, snakes, trails, dirt, etc.

After checking in, I had about an hour to chat with the other runners.  I saw Ronni, Rupert, and Eddy (who I had run with earlier in the month).  I also met up with Brian and Loretta (who had come up from Richmond).  Kevin Sayers, the RD, gave a briefing shortly before 8, and we were off!

The first six miles to the Hamburg Road aid station went down into the valley, and back up again.  This would be a tough stretch, but I still went out a bit too fast.  I knew the one female in front of me was a really strong runner (she would finish 10th overall, first woman), so I let her go and settled into a more manageable pace.  I fell into conversation with a couple of Grindstone veterans and made it to the first aid station in about 70 minutes.  I quickly grabbed a fig newton, but since I still had plenty of water I kept going without pause.

The next 10 miles were so-so.  I was starting to tire mentally, knowing that I still had so much effort to go.  My pace stayed steady – I’d be passed on the downhills, only to take over again on the ascents.  At about mile 10 or 11, a group that included two women passed me like I was standing still.  I watched them go, content that I was running my own race and knowing that I would need to conserve my strength for the return.

But even though my brain told me I was tired (“can’t we just stop running at the turn-around….why are we out here anyway?”), when I went through my physical checklist, everything was still working.  My legs felt good, I was eating enough, I wasn’t dehydrated (HAH!).  I kept going, and going, and going, until I was on the final downhill, splashing through the creek and coming into the Manor aid station.  Someone told me I was third female (one of the girls who passed me decided to drop at Manor).

A very nice volunteer topped off my water, I grabbed a sandwich and watermelon, and headed back out (2.5 minutes total).  As I started the two-mile slog back up the mountain, I saw the smiling faces of my friends and the other runners behind me. As the crowd thinned, two things went wrong.  First, my water pack had been overfilled, and was a) too heavy for my comfort and b) slowly leaking.  I had to stop, empty it a bit, and reseal the closure before I could continue.  I’d just gotten started again when my right foot seized with the worst cramp.  I couldn’t run, so I sat down and massaged it for 3-4 minutes.  Finally, a runner came by and gave me a S! cap, which helped tremendously.

I set out again, trying not to be discouraged by the few girls that had passed me (“this is NOT a race, Annie…this is a training run…this is a learning experience….”).  I knew what I needed to do – one foot in front of the other – all the way back to my car.

I ran the eternity to the Delauter Aid Station (mile 23) and then had fun running with a couple of Maryland guys.  Their sarcasm and jokes made the next three miles pass quickly.  It was a huge mental boost coming back to Hamburg (mile 26), for I knew the next stop was home.  I also knew that the next six miles would be the most difficult.

And they were.  My legs were always on the edge of cramping.  I was tired.  But again, I just shut out those thoughts and kept moving forward.

With 4 miles to go, I finally took a wrong turn.  Following the runner in front of me (bad Annie), we ran 3-4 minutes downhill before realizing that we’d lost the trail.  It took us another 5-6 minutes to get back on track.

I ran the final miles with the same group of people – leap-frogging each other, making jokes about the day.  I caught up to a super-nice lady from DC, who diagnosed my dehydration and gave lots advice.  It turned out that she had taken a wrong turn as well, which added three extra miles to her run.

We came to the lower parking area, and I knew there was less than 1/2 mile.  Scrambling up the hill, someone told me I’d be done in 2 minutes if I ran hard.  That’s all I needed to hear.  A flat trail around the Tea Room, a few more steps, and I was across the line.  Kevin slipped the Cat Card into my pack, and I sat down in the softest patch of grass ever!

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The post race BBQ was great, though I had no appetite.  I was really dehydrated.  I’d peed at 7:30, ingested somewhere north of 100 oz of liquid, and didn’t pee again until 5:30 that evening.  I think the cramps were a direct result of that, and I’ll admit that the hydration pack makes it hard for me to judge how much I’m drinking.  Next time I plan to rely on bottles instead.

Catoctin was by far the most physically demanding race I’ve run, but I was happy with my  performance.  I was able to squelch the demons, carry on, and finish.  Where the trail permitted running, I kept a consistent pace throughout.  I really need to work on my technical skills – specifically descent.  Without the detour, I would have finished in 5th place.  To get any higher, I need to build the strength to run those hills and the experience to better manage my hydration.

Mentally, I didn’t experience the high that Holiday Lake provided.  But I think that is a good thing.  My body and mind are learning that this is what we do.  No big deal.

Of Dunes and Rocks and Rattlesnakes

It seems forever since I’ve sat down to write – it’s been over a month since my last post.  The girls finished school on June 15th, and we pulled up stakes and headed North for three weeks.  It was a vacation that had been planned and plotted for months.  And, like any good trip, we had a bit of relaxation, a lot of fun, some unexpected stresses, and an over-riding sense of adventure.  I won’t bore you with the details.  Since this is primarily a running blog, let’s talk about that, shall we??

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Going into it, I knew it would be a challenge to keep up with my mileage goals.  Five moms, 13 kids, and too much energy & chaos to track.  My friends assured me they’d watch the girls so I could fit in a daily run, but I still felt a bit guilty.  I did a 20-miler the day before we left, and I managed one six mile run that first week, but took the rest of the time as “recovery”.   With the increase in training, by bones and muscles needed some time to rebuild.  I also needed a bit of a mental break.

It was the right decision.  I was able to enjoy the first week at the beach with my girls and have the energy to explore the island with them.  The second week, three of us (with our 8 kiddos in tow) headed to Nantucket.  The kids were in camp five days, and that’s when I got to work.  My plan was to run 10 miles Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I’d cap off the week with a 20 mile run Friday.

Monday morning, I headed out from our house and headed west along Cliff Road.  I wasn’t familiar with the island, so I just hugged the coastal road until it turned to a rutted, packed sand path.  About 5 miles in, a single-track trail cut South, so I turned and rambled over the moors.  I picked up another road and took that back to Town for a total of 11 miles.  Cloudy and overcast, the day was made for runners.

Tuesday, I left from the kids’ camp.  I ran East this time towards Polpis.  I stayed on the bike path, which rolled nicely but was generally boring.  I’ve started adding runs like this into my schedule – the monotony of a fixed course is what I can expect for the middle portion of JFK.  10 miles even.

Wednesday, I thought I needed to veer off-road, so I planned an out-and-back through conservation land.  It was beautiful, and I was reluctant to turn around.

I decided that it would be fun to come back for my 20 miler a few days later.  My Friday long run started out well, with an overcast sky and the trail running to the southern (surf side) of Nantucket.  I saw a part of the island that few tourists witness and became lost in my own reverie.  Unfortunately, the clouds parted and the sun came out.  With the direct heat, no shade, and touch of stomach distress, miles 10-12 because pretty miserable.  I decided to cut it short, which turned out to be a good call.

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We flew from Nantucket to Baltimore, and the next day headed to my family’s mountain cabin in South-Central PA.  I ran 27 miles on the shale-rock trails and roads there – the best run being my shortest, a seven miler with my cousin Mark.  He’s 18 months older than me, and since childhood I have strived to keep up with him hiking or biking, and now running.  I’d love to talk him into coming to VA for an ultra next year….

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We stayed at the Cabin for a few days, and finished off the week with some time in Frederick, MD.  I hooked up with some local runners to get out on the Catoctin Mountain Trail.  I’ll be running the Catoctin 50K in a few weeks and wanted to get my bearings and a feel for the terrain.  We ran 20 miles on Saturday – the conservative pace and small group made it easy to focus on learning the trail.  However, about 6 miles into our run, we heard a strange rattle noise.  Sure enough, we had hopped right over a HUGE rattlesnake!  Fortunately, it did not want to mess with us (any more than we wanted to mess with it).  When we passed the spot a few hours later, he was long gone!

I swear he was HUGE in real life. However, the photographer was reluctant to go in for a close up!!

I  returned Sunday to run the course in reverse – a total of 16 miles for the day.  Running on tired legs, but finishing strongly, I gained a huge amount of confidence for the actual race.  The Frederick Steeplechasers are a great running club, and I’m so thankful they let me tag along.  I’ll see many of them at Catoctin and JFK and hope that I’ll be able to log a few more training runs with them over the coming months.

Race Recap: Xterra 21K Trail Run

I didn’t mean to run this race.  There were a lot of reasons not to do it.  I’ve been ramping up my mileage over the last month, and I really needed to get 18 under my belt to set up one last long run before vacation.  After my recent AT debacle, the last thing I needed was to make a foolish mistake, and I worried that the implicit pressure of a “race” would cause me to trip up (literally and figuratively!).  With speed work on Tuesday and a 4-mile race on Thursday, perhaps this would be too much work for one week.

On Monday, I went to the website.  Online registration was still open.  I sat and debated and rationalized.  My smarter self prevailed (for once) and I decided not to run.

On Wednesday, I went to the website.  Online registration was closed.  “That makes it easy” I said to myself, and I decided not to run.

On Friday, with a million things to do and not nearly enough time, I sped down to Canal Street – walked into the Crown Plaza, and plunked down my $50.  Idiot.

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Saturday dawned bright and hot.  The girls gone for the weekend, all I had to do was feed the dogs, throw my bag in the car, and head down to Browns Island.  I arrived, on schedule, just before seven.  My plan was to run 5 miles before the start, thus satisfying my 18-mile requirement for the day.  I also hoped these extra miles would take the edge off my competitiveness, and help me treat this more as a training run.

I loped up the hill to Franklin, then headed east for a lap around the VA State Capitol.  My goodness, but do we have a beautiful city in the morning!  Down to Shockoe Slip past Bottom’s Up, East along Tobacco Row, and back along the bike path to the flood wall.  Easy, Easy running down the canal, and back for a lap around Brown’s Island, I finished up just as the briefing started at 7:45.

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The route took us east, where we crossed the river and turned west to run along the flood wall on the South bank of the James.  Crushed gravel, pavement and no shade went the first two miles (though I got a laugh at the first aid station, when the runner in front of me grabbed a cup of “water” and tossed it over his head, only to find out it was Gatorade).  But then we came upon Riverside Towers and jumped on the Buttermilk Trail.  My feet had found their happy place, and I bounded along to Reedy Creek and Forest Hill Park.

The course makes two loops through Forest Hill Park, and I am glad I knew this going into the race.  The three mile loop is hilly and hot.  Right around the 4 mile mark (9 miles of running), my energy started to ebb a bit.  I had stashed some PowerBar gummies, and over the next 5 miles they gave me the boost I needed.  There weren’t many girls around, but I was able to pass those I came upon. I finished my first water bottle (filled with Nuun), and refilled at one of the water tables.

About halfway through the first lap, I fell in behind a guy from NoVA.  He commented on how tough the trails were, and it turns out this was his first time running off road.  He was a strong, fit guy, and it killed him to hear that our pace was around 9:30/mi.  I tried to assure him that this was respectable (I thought) for the trails (For comparison, when I’m training on the road, I might run a 7:30 pace.  The same perceived effort on the trails will be around a 10-10:30 pace).

I stayed with RoadGuy for the next lap as well, and as we were nearing the end, I stood aside to let another man pass.  He was jumping back in after stopping to take off his soaked socks.  For the second time, I got the comment that the trails were incredibly difficult.  We started talking…he was from Kentucky and had come up so his boys could compete in the triathlon Sunday.  Our pace had slowed by this point, and I was enjoying the conversation, so I didn’t mind when the girl who had been shadowing me finally passed us.  I let her go, confident in my strategy to enjoy the day, and not make myself fight for higher placement.

We rock-hopped across the James, and up and over Belle Isle.  Got to meet a guy training for Grindstone who had run the entire course before the race (don’t I feel like a pansy for my measly 5-miler).   We chatted about JFK and Catoctin – he’d run both and was happy to give me advice.  I was reminded again why I love ultra-runners.  My ClifShot had kicked in, and I was feeling like I could have run all day.  I passed one last woman on the footbridge, trotted up Tredegar Street and sprinted through the finish line.

My time for the day was about 1 hour and 53 minutes.  Not a PR by any means, but enough for 9th female overall (3rd in my age group).

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It turns out the Xterra was a huge step forward for me, with lessons that I will apply to the coming months of training:

1)  It was totally the right call to add on miles before the race.  It kept me on schedule, training wise, and dealt with the psychological issues that creep up during a race.  I went to the starting line without the self-imposed pressure to perform.

2) That being said, that I could take it easy and still crack the top-10 was highly motivating.  My hip & Achilles felt great and I could totally tell that the strength-training is working.

3) I fueled and hydrated correctly.  Nuun to start, water & gatorade to finish.  PowerBar gummies at mile 9, 11, & 13.  ClifShot at mile 16.  When I felt tired, I ate or had some Gatorade and I never felt like I was nearing empty.

4) I could have gone farther.  Especially if I had dialed in my pace during the 21K.  Knowing that, I feel OK upping my long-run mileage over the coming weeks, and I feel good about my plan to run Catoctin July 28.

Putting the Universe Back Together

Yesterday was a rough day.

You know, one of those when nothing seems to be in its proper place.  The girls were picking on each other all day.  Jimmy and I were running in opposite directions, both of us with an insanely full schedule.  I forgot MagPie’s lunch – sent her to school while it sat in the fridge.  My allergies are back, with the delightful side-effect of Vertigo (which makes yoga so-much-fun).

I was in a funk from pre-school drop-off until dinner time.  I managed to gather everything needed for swim lessons, get the girls changed, and have dinner ready when Jimmy walked in the door at five.

Then I fled.

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Tuesday nights are my “night off”.  One night a week, I get to clock out at 5 pm.  A normal, rational person would use this time to get a massage, have dinner with friends, or even go to the park to read a book.

I am not rational.

5:30 found me seeking a parking space in downtown Richmond, and sprinting to catch up with the Tuesday Night Running Group.  They alternate trails, hills, and speed work.  Yesterday was hills.  As I started the warm-up run, I held back from the general chit-chat.  I focused on my breathing.  I let go of all the tension and frustration that had defined the day.  And slowly, the Universe started to fall back into place.

While I often run in the city, my forays are limited to the manicured neighborhoods, historic avenues, and the beautiful parks  and trails that Richmond boasts.  Last night we ran the massive hills between MCV and Church Hill.  The skyline was our backdrop, the cobblestones and warped brick sidewalks were our trails.  I met some great folks and by the time it was over my patience with my children was restored.

When I returned home, it didn’t matter that they weren’t in bed.  They were happy to see me and I was thrilled to see them.

Just the way the Universe should be.

Recovery – Week 5

Knock on wood – I think I am there!

No pain, no crepitus.  My left AT feels great….

Three runs last week – two 5 milers, and a 7 mile trail run.  It felt SO GOOD to be back on Buttermilk & North Bank….right where this mama belongs!

I’ve supplemented the running with 45-minute elliptical sessions.  Also did some monster side-lunges and leg work this week in an effort to build muscle.

The plan going forward is more of the same.  Conservative increases in mileage, strength work 2-3 times a week.  Yoga and elliptical/pre-core.  I plan to run the Carytown 10K this week as a final salute to fast running before hunkering down and focusing on endurance for the rest of the summer.  My JFK application went in the mail yesterday…if all goes as planned I will be running my first 50 this coming November.

Run on, mamas!

Recovery – Week 4

Days Since Injury:  29

Summary:

Second full week back running.  This week the plan was to run 2 easy 3 milers, with a 5 mile “long run” on the weekend.  Huge improvements this week!!  By Saturday, when I ran the 5 miler, I wasn’t even aware of my left Achilles.  I continued to ice after each run, but there was no noticeable swelling.  Back at home after a week away for Spring Break, I was able to go to the gym.  Spinning, Elliptical, and Power Yoga all supplemented my running. I continued core work and leg-strengthening exercises.  NO crepitus (creaking) at all yesterday or today!!

Details:

  • Monday – Spin Class (45 min).  High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) trashed my quads, but was a great test of stamina.
  • Tuesday – Power Yoga (60 min) followed by 3 miles on the treadmill (7:47 min/mi).  The goal of the treadmill running was to keep my heart rate in check.  Managed to average in the 150s, which for me is an easy pace.
  • Wednesday – Legs & Abs.  Reached failure.  Legs especially hurt all day (in a good way)
  • Thursday – 3.5 mile run (8:13 pace), 5.5 miles on the elliptical (7:30 pace).  Legs still recovering from strength training
  • Friday – total rest
  • Saturday – 5.25 mile run (7:20 pace).  Fast & hard.  No issues at all with my Achilles, but my right glute is still giving me problems.
  • Sunday – Legs & Abs, Power Yoga.

Plan for this week:

I’d like to continue to build mileage.  Since I haven’t had any issues with the 5 mile distance, I plan to run 40-45 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with a long run of 7-8 miles on Sunday morning.  I’ll also do at least one spin class and a couple of sessions on the Elliptical.  I’d like to add one more strength workout with emphasis on the Gluteal muscles.

Recovery – Week 3

Days Since Injury:  22

Summary:

First full week back running.  Per my Physical Therapist’s recommendation, I limited my running to 3 easy miles, with at least a day of recovery after each.  While I was aware of my left achilles at points during each run, at no point did I feel pain (yay!!).  I continued my core work (2-3 times/wk), leg strengthening (same), and eccentric calf raises (1-2 times/day).  Spring break travels limited my ability to cross-train, and I have started to feel as if my cardio is suffering a bit.

Read on if you’d like all the details…

  • Monday – Ran 3 mi.,  easy pace.  I felt like I was running in slow motion, and aside from a few small hills, I kept to the flat course.  Average pace was about 7:45/mi.  Iced immediately afterwards for 10 minutes, then again after showering and breakfast.  In the afternoon, we took the girls to a local state park and did some easy hiking (about 2 miles).  I rested and iced as soon as we got home.  Minor swelling, but no pain.
  • Tuesday – No running.  Core exercises in the AM (abs) and PM (back).  Eccentric calf raises (3 x 15).
  • Wednesday – No running, no core.  Walked the National Mall and Smithsonian with the girls.  Jealous of all the runners, even on a cold, gray, and windy day.  I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since I worked here!!
  • Thursday – Ran 3 mi., easy pace.  While there was no pain, I FELT my achilles more than earlier in the week.  I iced it right away when I got home, but it still swelled a bit.  Several more icing sessions, and it is back to normal.
  • Friday – Total Rest; No running, no core
  • Saturday – Core exercises
  • Sunday – Ran 3.5 miles.  Tried to keep HR under 160 bpm, which meant a 9:15 pace.  Eccentric calf raises immediately following run.  No pain during run, but felt stretched during the lower leg work. 

Plan for this week:

After meeting with my PT this morning, we decided that I’d up my cardio to 6 sessions per week, including three runs (3, 3, & 5 miles).  I did 45 minutes on the bike this morning, and will also add in the elliptical & pool.  I plan to do yoga 1-2 times, in addition to core & leg work.

Small Steps

I ran Friday.  2 miles.  Slow.

It was my first run since my Achilles Tendon Time Out.  12 days off.  I have switched from training to rebuilding.

I realize that I have not detailed the injuries that have plagued me since December.  To be honest, I really did not take them seriously.  In the past, a day or two of rest was enough to banish the pain and regain my form.  I’ve never pushed myself to the breaking point.

But its been four months now, and I still can’t get back to my Happy Place.  I’ve had to cancel two races that I was really excited to run, and a third (NF Endurance 50K) is pretty much a lost cause.

So this blog is going to switch gears for a bit, because it’s important for me to chronicle these feelings and take notes during this time of rebuilding.

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I first noticed that something was wrong on November 26, 2011.  I had run the Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving Day.  With my marathon base, I was happy to PR on an exceptionally hilly, difficult course.  I should not have been racing on legs that were still in recovery, but overall I felt strong.  Two days later, however, Jimmy and I went for a 9-mile run on the Appalachian Trail.  My knees, right hip, and ankle were all painful, and I had to walk a large portion of the route.  The next day, I stubbornly insisted on an 8-mile run up and over the hilly terrain of Western MD.

Over the course of the next two weeks, I went for my standard runs.  5-6 miles at a time, but my legs just felt dead.  I was slower.  I hurt more.  The joy was gone.  I managed a few long runs before Christmas.  The last, an 18-miler, was torture for the final four miles.  The pain centered on my right hip and ankle.   Femoral Stress Fracture?  Anemia?  Lyme Disease?  My doctors ran series of tests.  They ruled out fractures, iron deficiency, and illness and gave me my diagnosis – Piriformis Syndrome.

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I’d dealt with this when training for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2001.  A few PT sessions, and I was good to go.  My doctor referred me to a well know PT, who told me that I had overstretched my Piriformis muscle.  He told me to stop stretching, analyzed my gait and recommend a few changes.  It didn’t help.  A friend referred me to her guy, who had helped her get over a similar problem the summer before.  I started PT with him on February 5, just days before Holiday Lake.

Andy gave me the once over and determined that it wasn’t just my Piriformis that was acting up.  My pelvis was misaligned, my lower back had slipped out, and my glute medius was aggravated.  Over the next month, we worked twice a week to massage out the knots, heal the muscles, and strengthen my core.  And it was working.  Until we added lunges.

For some reason, as soon as I tried to do a left-side lunge, I felt a weakness in my left knee and left Achilles Tendon.  I’m not sure what happened, but the previous week (March 7th) I took a nasty spill during a trail run.  A few days later we took the girls hiking in Shenandoah National Park and I ended carrying 30 lbs of SweetBabyJ a mile & 1/2 up the side of the mountain.

The knee pain really didn’t bother me, but I started to notice a creakiness in my AT.  It was worst when I flexed my ankle, but it didn’t hurt when I was running.  I continued to train, with fair warning from my PT that I was on the edge of full-on tendonitis.

To be safe, I backed out of the Instant Classic Trail Marathon.  But a week later, as I posted, a triple-dose of runs caused the tendon to swell, and the rest is history….

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So here I am, in recovery mode.  After the 2 mile run Friday, I iced and wrapped my ankle.  I tried to stay off it for the rest of the day.  No major swelling.  Small Steps…

Saturday, I got on my bike for a hilly 6 mile loop.  My AT felt very similar to my run the previous day.  So I repeated the icing.

Today I’m resting.  The AT remains creaky with just a hint of tenderness.  I’ll run again tomorrow and see how it goes.

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I continue to do my core-strengthening routine every other day.  Crunches (2 x 50 each:  center, left, and right), Flutter Kicks (2 x 50), Atomic Situps (2 x 25), Back Extensions (3 x 30).  Plank leg lifts (2 x 10), Planks (1 min hold).  I also do leg strengthening:  25 forward lunges (both sides), 25 side lunges (both sides), Side leg lifts (w/ resistance band): 3 x 15 (both sides).  Eccentric Calf Raises (3 x 15, each side).   I feel like I need to up these numbers, as I don’t quite reach failure.  But it is so hard to motivate.

I took a Power Yoga class Tuesday and loved it.  It did a better job of working my core & legs, and I was sore afterwards – what a good feeling!

I’m trying out some supplements:  Glycine, Lysine, Creatine, Glucosamie Sulfate, and Vitamin E.

I have backed off the Ibuprofen.

I’m trying to drink more water.

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If all goes well, I will continue to run 2-3 miles every 2nd or third day.  I will only increase this mileage as my AT can tolerate it.  I hope to maintain my cardio base with spin classes, bike rides, and swimming.  I’ll do Power Yoga 1-2 times per week, as well as core & strengthening 3 times per week.

I want to give myself enough time to properly train for JFK, which means I have about 6-8 weeks to turn this around.

Wish me luck!